Christmas Eve, 1978. It was late. The rural Pennsylvania highway was empty. All over America, stockings were hung by the carbon monoxide detectors with care. Children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of mortgage foreclosures danced through their parents’ heads.

And Todd was standing on the shoulder of a county highway, freezing his backside off.

The snow was falling like TV static. He was trembling.

Now his Honda Concerto was broken down, dead, parked on the rumble strip like a monument to Japanese auto engineering. And since this was an age before cellphones, he was up a well-known creek without the aid of an oar.

The snow fell harder. Todd pulled his coat tighter.

Headlights appeared behind him.

Todd waved his arms like a cast member on “Gilligan’s Island.”

The high beams illuminated the spindrifts of snow, the air brakes squealed, and the semi truck vibrated the Earth as it eased onto the shoulder. The tractor trailer was the size of a rural school district. There was a wreath on the grille.

Todd should have been glad someone stopped to help, but he wasn’t. His heart sank into his stomach because he recognized that wreath. He knew that truck.

Descending from the cab was a man dressed in plaid, wearing steel-toed ropers. It was Todd’s dad.

It was the last person he wanted to see.

Todd and his estranged father were enemies. His father had left home when Todd was six to drive an eighteen-wheeler across the U.S.. The man had been absent from his life until Todd hit his mid-thirties. Over the last few years, the old man had been trying to reconnect with his broken family, but as far as Todd was concerned, it was too late for reunions. Todd didn’t hold a grudge per se. He embraced it.

His father looked beneath the hood of Todd’s car. His old man had always been good with cars, he knew exactly what the problem was. It was the distributor cap. No big deal. His father said it was an easy fix.

Except there was a minor problem. For starters, no auto part stores were open on Christmas Eve.

“Secondly,” the old man explained, pointing to the six hundred horses behind him. “I gotta get this truck to Albuquerque.”

He couldn’t leave his own son standing on the side of an empty highway in the driving snow. And there was no time to give him a ride back into town.


The next morning Todd awoke snug in the bottom bunk of a Peterbilt sleeper cab, traveling about seventy-five on I-70 across the the Midwest. He climbed into the front seat with his old man and in an awkward silence they passed the Buckeye State, making their way into Hoosier territory. The coffee was hot, the gas-station sticky buns were—well—sticky. And it was a weird few days.

Todd and his father drove thirty-odd hours across the Lower Forty-Eight. And somewhere near the Illinois border, something shifted between them. It wasn’t a major shift, but the ice began to break. The two men began to talk. Tensions started to ease, and they opened up to each other.

Pretty soon, they were even getting along. They passed Indianapolis, Columbia, and Saint Louis. They ate truckstop Barbecue in Kansas City, they drove through the broad fields of winter wheat, past Purple Rockies Majesty, and beneath a red Taos sky. Todd’s father told stories. Todd told a few of his own. They had a lot of catching up to do.

After several days spent driving through the arteries of the American highway system, the old man finally carried Todd back to Pennsylvania where he repaired Todd’s broken car in under ten minutes.

Before they parted ways, the two embraced, slapping each other’s backs. And it was the first time the father and son had exchanged anything more than a dirty look in years.

Then, his father said, “I gotta make a trip to Houston in a few days… If you weren’t too busy, I could use the company…”

He left his statement open ended. And it just died in the water.

Todd waited a beat too long to answer. After all, he had his pride. A father doesn’t just walk out on his family, stay gone for three decades, then make everything better with one road trip. Life wasn’t a Hallmark Channel special.

“Never mind,” said the old man. “Forget I even asked.”

“I’d love to go with you,” said Todd.



There were no tears. No Mancini music swelled in the background. On TV everything gets tied up in a nice, neat, little bow, roll the credits. But in real life, there are no bows. No film credits. There are only imperfect people who make mistakes. Todd climbed into his father’s truck.

And anyway, that’s how Todd became a truck driver.


  1. Peggy ALEXANDER - December 3, 2021 6:23 am

    Well tears came close to my eyes, and I don’t cry easily. I am glad he went on the trip with his daddy

  2. Debbie g - December 3, 2021 7:11 am

    What a story
    What a ride!!!
    Love your stories Sean and love to you and Jamie and us all ❤️

  3. Joy Jacobs - December 3, 2021 11:58 am

    Tears first thing in the morning….. again. Thanks. ❤️

  4. Paul McCutchen - December 3, 2021 1:09 pm

    Morning coffee and one of your stories.. thanks again Sean

  5. Suzanne Cahill - December 3, 2021 1:14 pm

    Forgiveness is a huge gift. Thank you for this story.

  6. Karen - December 3, 2021 1:27 pm

    I would call that a ride of a lifetime.

  7. Linda Lewis - December 3, 2021 1:29 pm

    This is a wonderful story and so well-written. Thank you.

  8. Suellen - December 3, 2021 1:59 pm

    I was afraid Todd was going to let his father walk back out of his life. I’m thinking his Daddy had to have been carrying around a powerful lot of hurt and guilt. Second chances are always needed for the big and the small things.

  9. Jan - December 3, 2021 1:59 pm

    Love this story!

  10. Cheryl Andrews - December 3, 2021 2:20 pm


  11. Cathy M - December 3, 2021 3:07 pm

    Great Christmas story. The gift of forgiveness is powerful. It frees one to open his heart and embrace love. Thanks be to God

  12. Shelton A. - December 3, 2021 3:24 pm

    Outstanding Christmas story and for us Episcopalians and others for whom this is a season of preparation, a wonderful Advent story also. Thanks for sharing, Sean. Helps make my day!

  13. Mary - December 3, 2021 3:58 pm

    You are the king of metaphors.
    “Todd waved his arms like a cast member on “Gilligan’s Island.” this could win a prize.
    You don’t call yourself a writer. But I call myself a reader of your words.
    Happy Holidays,

  14. Susan - December 3, 2021 3:59 pm


  15. Susie Flick - December 3, 2021 4:20 pm

    Always love truck drivers, my dad was one. It’s great that they reconnected and he found a career he liked! Nothing like having your dad be your mentor regardless of how long it took.

  16. AlaRedClayGirl - December 3, 2021 4:23 pm

    Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.

  17. Linda Moon - December 3, 2021 6:20 pm

    Well. I’ve never thought of carbon monoxide detectors in conjunction with Christmas stockings ’til just now. So, I’ll read on to satisfy some reading curiousity. And then, “mortgage foreclosures” So, where’s this story going? The story opened up for me when it opened up between Todd and his father, thanks to the writer of this post. No bows needed.

  18. Madonna - December 3, 2021 6:32 pm

    Years of hurt, years of pain resolved in a few days journey! WHAT A GOD!

  19. Edna H. Isdell - December 3, 2021 6:43 pm

    I love this story.

  20. Gayle Wilson - December 3, 2021 7:38 pm

    We all carry skeletons and sometimes it takes a miracle that looks like a bad break to bring resolutions to our troubled pasts.

  21. MAM - December 3, 2021 9:01 pm

    Well, Todd or his father might not have had any tears, but I sure did! Estranged families to me are the saddest thing ever. I’m so glad that God arranged for them to get back together. What a fine Christmas present for both of them!

  22. Chasity Davis Ritter - December 3, 2021 9:49 pm

    God bless all the truck drivers and keep them safe on the highways. Lord watch over Todd and his Dad. I’m glad they were really able to find each other again. Thanks for sharing, Sean.

  23. Gary Nichols - December 3, 2021 10:13 pm

    This has nothing to do with this column.
    We enjoyed seeing you last night (12/2) in Milton. Let’s do it again.

  24. Greg - December 3, 2021 11:52 pm

    Wonderful story Sean but I don’t think the Honda Concerto was made til 1989. Sorry but car guys notice things like that.

  25. Jean P. Stone - December 4, 2021 2:08 am

    Forgiveness is so powerful, and is truly a gift you give yourself. Thank you for your stories. They make my day brighter!

  26. Lucretia Jones - December 4, 2021 12:41 pm

    Perfect, Sean, perfect!

  27. John - December 4, 2021 1:45 pm

    Or “he was up that well known tributary with no means of locomotion”. 😉

  28. Joy Dollar - December 5, 2021 4:23 am

    Love it!!!! Miracles still happen!

  29. Trish - December 6, 2021 9:10 pm

    good lesson learned here.

  30. Johnny Bullard - December 8, 2021 2:14 am

    As always, good piece.


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